Fishing in Scotland: outrage as temporary ban forces fishermen to close businesses for three months

Fishermen from Campbeltown Harbor have described how static fishermen feel “forgotten” and their businesses “left to suffer” after an 11-week ban in part of the Firth of Clyde.

A targeted cod ban, which bans any fishing activity that could cause cod to spawn in the Clyde, went into effect on 14 February after being announced on 12 January.

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The government claims the ban is intended to protect cod spawning and the marine ecosystem after overfishing.

Paul McAllister and his 1-year-old son Felix aboard their 10m Serpico boat (Photo: Paul McAllister).

This decision is in line with commitments under the Bute House Agreement between the Scottish Government and the Scottish Green Party.

However, groups are skeptical about the effectiveness of the ban and focus on how it affects local fishermen.

Trawlers and static fishermen are still able to fish nearby in the Clyde as no-go areas have been chosen based on the types of sediment the cod prefer to spawn.

The exclusion zone was originally the strip from the Mull of Kintyre Lighthouse to Stranraer. However, the exclusion zone has now expanded to cover the area around Arran.

However, the government said it had reduced the overall closure by 28 percent from previous years.

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Creel fishermen say the lack of advice and compensation due to these changes has left them in a “nightmare” scenario.

Mr. McAllister, 32, who works on a 10m creel, said: “I feel like I’ve been completely disappointed by everyone.

“The government made concessions by opening the area to trawlers, and because they did that, everyone thinks that the fishermen have somewhere to go, but it made it even worse for all of us static fishermen.

“No one is fighting for us. It feels like they [the government] it just needed someone to blame for the overfishing. ”

Mr McAllister said he was told by the Scottish government that he could move to a no-go zone, but due to recent stormy weather, he said it made it impossible to get his equipment out of the no-go zone. He was then informed by the Scottish Marines that if he moved this equipment he could be fined up to £50,000.

However, the Scottish Marines told McAlister on 17 February that he would now be allowed to move his equipment without penalty.

However, the fisherman is still unable to work during the period, which the government says will have “short-term costs”.

“There are many outrageous factors associated with this ban,” he said. “It amazes me that the government can have the legal right to just tell me that I can’t go to work.

“The people making these decisions seem to have forgotten that it affects small businesses and real families in rural communities.

“Currently, at best, I will lose 25 percent of annual revenue for my business and my team.”

“However, really, how can I expect my team to be happy without making money for almost three months?

“Most likely, I will not have a crew when the ban ends in April, as they will be forced to look for work elsewhere.”

Kenny Campbell, a crab and lobster angler, said: “I have no income and nowhere to go with my spiers unless I go around the Mull of Kintyre, but with their gusts of wind it just isn’t safe. with my boat size.

“It’s depressing. I left school 30 years ago to come and do this and am worried about what will happen next year?

“They are looking for someone to blame, and they choose us.”

Nick Underdown of charity Open Seas said: “Basically, there is no hard evidence to support a krilling ban. The impact of bottom trawling on the seabed where cod spawn is very different from creeling. Creeling takes up little space compared to bottom trawling and we support preferential access for low impact fisheries.

“We support a just transition and it is clear that livelihoods will suffer in taking the measures necessary to restore our fish stocks and the government has an obligation to deal with this and support the fishermen.

“The Scottish Government has not held proper and reasonable consultation on this matter and this is indicative of a wider dysfunction in the way we manage our fisheries.”

The Clyde Fishermen’s Association (CFA) says the government’s changes have affected all the fishermen they support.

The CFA wants the government to work more closely with the fishing communities and “significantly improve coordination and authentic participation based on hard data.”

“I have never experienced such a lack of advice or awareness in all my years in fisheries policy,” said CFA’s Elaine White. “We cannot accept that this is a short-term closure with minimal environmental or socio-economic considerations.

“Currently, we still have three family boats that lost their income within three months and very few families would find it easy to survive without income.

“It’s not easy for all boats to just move to other areas as the herds may not be in the other area, or they may be more open and less safe.

“In light of the effects of Brexit and Covid, these boats are no longer sustainable.

“Our local small-scale fishermen, whether mobile or stationary, are committed to sustainable fishing.

“That’s the same reason they created the cod closure box 20 years ago.”

Because of the ban, Mr. Campbell couldn’t sleep at night. The 47-year-old says he’s gotten a little better, but the constant anxiety remains.

Mr Campbell, whose father, grandfather and great-grandfather were fishermen, said he would “be patient” but added: “It will be difficult if the government can just turn around and shut you down and I’ll probably have to stop if they do.” . this.

“They could compensate us, but they don’t. There are fewer fishermen catching creel, so it is less politically harmful for them.”

The Scottish Government has stated that, in line with its policy on similar management measures, including the National Cod Prevention Plan and Marine Protected Areas, it is not considering any further financial support schemes specifically related to this closure.

However, the CFA has not acknowledged that the measure is similar to the National North Sea Cod Prevention Plan, as the association says the Scottish plans “lack in the science, monitoring, participation and conditions” associated with the North Sea scheme.

The Rural Affairs Committee will review the Clyde cod fishing problems late next month.

The Scottish Government says the revised closure is a “pragmatic and scientifically sound decision” that protects spawning cod and vulnerable coastal communities.

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